By Josh LaBella
Ed. Note: This is the first in a series of articles profiling the five announced candidates, three Democrat, two Republican.
Michele Gregorio, vice-chairman of the Board of Finance and the second GOP candidate to announce candidacy in West Haven’s mayoral election, said one of the main reasons she decided to run was her advice to the mayor and City Council has gone unheeded.
“Last year, when I approached the City Council as a member of the Board of Finance, I expressed to them there were ways that we could look at this budget and make some appropriate cuts and planning for the future so that we could avoid the situation that the city has been in financially,” said Gregorio.
According to Gregorio, the Board of Finance made a to-do list for the mayor and City Council which would help the city save money. She said the board looked at aspects of the budget such as labor contracts, head count reports and duplication of services.
“We looked at the various line items and said, ‘Where can we best apply our dollars?’” said Gregorio.
The chairman said after a meeting with the city council to discuss the Board of Finances suggestions was cancelled due to bad weather it was not rescheduled. She said since then neither the mayor nor the council has reached out to the board to discuss their findings.
Another issue Gregorio said is part of her platform is what she calls “true development.” She said that does not mean trying to build more apartment buildings. Gregorio stated that the city should focus on development that would bring job creation, not housing.
“We could have biotech businesses here,” said Gregorio. “We could have high precision manufacturing. We could use the ecosystem out of the shoreline to develop business as well.”
Gregorio added she was unsure if The Haven project will ever be completely and said that, if elected, she would abandon the project.
“Clinton and Westbrook have been bought out a couple times by different ownership,” she said. “Milford has the highest vacancy rate that they’ve ever had. Why would we build a mall?”
Gregorio, who was a financial controller at BIC Corporation, said she is ready to hit the ground running. She said she has a lot of contacts in the private sector that could ensure the city is run “like a business.”
“We’re a $169 million business,” said Gregorio. “It doesn’t mean that we don’t provide services. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have festivals. But, we could form partnerships with so many beautiful volunteers in our city; partnerships with UNH, Yale and with businesses.”
Gregorio said if the West Haven forms the correct group with organizations and businesses like the ones aforementioned it could be beneficial to the city.
The candidate said she would focus of saving the city money via changes to labor contracts, health care plans and by asking employees where they think cuts can be made. She added she wants to look at making city government run more efficiently.
She also said she wanted to focus on development which would bring jobs to the city as well as utilizing the city’s shoreline. She said while Connecticut is not a business-friendly state there is no reason West Haven cannot be a business-friendly city.
“This is having a plan for each part of the city,” she said. “You have to think about historical perspective. You have to think about demographics. You have to think outside the box. There are many other models of shoreline communities that have risen up from the ashes and I would have no problem speaking with them.
Speaking on the challenges a republican might have running in a city with a long history of being Democrat-controlled, Gregorio said she looks forward – not back.
The Republican Town Committee, which Gregorio used to be the chairman of, caucuses on July 16 to pick a candidate for mayor and other positions. She said she believes she is the better qualified of the GOP candidates and is feeling confident. She faces P&Z member Steve Mullins for the nomination.